Panatta grew up as the son of groundkeeper the tennis club. In 1972 he stood for the first time in Gstaad for the first time in a singles final, the same year he was also in the final at Hamburg. The following year he won his first singles title, and from the first doubles title of his career. The greatest success of his career, he celebrated in 1976, when he won the French Open in Paris. After his final victory over Harold Solomon, he was by Nicola Pietrangeli only the second Italian to win a Grand Slam tournament. Overall, Panetta won during his career nine singles and 17 doubles titles. Its highest listing in the tennis world ranking he reached in 1976 with four position in the individual and in 1980 with position 15 in doubles.
Panatta denied 1970-1983 63 single and 37 double appearances for the Italian Davis Cup team. His greatest success with the team, he celebrated winning the Davis Cup in 1976, when he was defeated in 17 missions in singles and doubles only twice.
Panatta is the older brother of tennis player Claudio Panatta.